One objective of the Parliamentarians for Women’s Health1 project is to strengthen the capacity of members of parliament (MPs) to actively review and promote legislation that improves women’s access to health care.
To achieve this, the project formed a legal policy group to implement the following:
Women and HIV/AIDS
Review and comment on the legal audit of legislation that has direct relevance to women’s health in Botswana;
Review and comment on policy gaps based on a policy analysis of women’s access to health care in Botswana;
Assist in identifying the obstacles that hinder women’s access to health care services in Botswana;
Share information and experiences in their respective capacities with regard to access to health care services for women; and
Develop a plan for legislative action by making recommendations to members of parliament to improve access to health care for women and lobby for increased
budgetary allocations for women’s health.
Women around the world have moved from the periphery of the AIDS epidemic to its very heart in less than a decade.2 The high prevalence of HIV/AIDS-related stigma against women contributes to their vulnerability in this epidemic as well as the social and economic inequality they have long endured.3
Commercial sex workers and female refugees are particularly vulnerable to the spread of HIV and AIDS, and they often face barriers in accessing treatment, care and support. These vulnerable groups require special attention with targeted HIV/AIDS prevention messages and treatment rollout.
Social norms about gender roles also often result in inequalities that leave women without the voice and opportunities to determine their own health and life choices within families and communities. To change these norms and inequalities, women need greater health care access, but men also need to be involved and made more aware of their roles in their wives’ and daughters’ reproductive and sexual health.
For example, campaigns to reduce HIV/AIDS stigma in Botswana could do more to emphasize the plight of women living with AIDS, and to reach both men and women in
rural and urban communities. To expand this reach, the government and media would need to use the various ethnic languages in their communications and not just English and Setswana.
Parliamentarians for Women’s Health seeks to assist select parliamentarians in East and southern Africa to more effectively improve women’s and girls’ access to health services, particularly HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention, care and counseling. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, this three-year project is being implemented by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), European Parliamentarians for Africa (AWEPA), the Centre for the Study of AIDS (CSA) of the University of Pretoria, the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW) and Realizing Rights: The Ethnical Globalization Initiative (EGI).
Mary Crewe ( no. 118 above) 3